Summary: We hear people talk about the New Testament church and wanting to be like the New Testament Church but what does that mean. This message looks at what it means to be a NT Church
The Birth of the Church
Sigmund Freud wrote “The act of birth is the first experience of anxiety, and thus the source and prototype of the affect of anxiety.” Which might explain Andy Warhol’s statement “Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery.”
This is week eight of our Story of the Book series and since the beginning of July we have been on a whirlwind tour of the Bible. Last week we arrived in the New Testament and from the Gospels I selected the book of Mark to speak on and my central theme was what it will take if we want to be more than an average Christian.
The Gospels of course begin with the birth of Christ and take us on a journey through his life and ministry leading to his death and resurrection. And that brings us to the next stage of our journey. This is only one of two sections where we will only be looking at one book, in a few weeks we will look at the book of the Revelation but today we are looking specifically at the book of Acts or more correctly “The Acts of the Apostles.”
It is accepted that author was the same author who wrote the book of Luke, Luke, who was a Gentile physician. The book of Acts was written around AD 63 and Luke was writing these accounts for a friend of his by the name of Theophilus, who was either a new believer or someone seeking to know more about Christ and the early church. Interesting name Theophilus, it was my great grandfather’s name but more than that in the Greek it means Lover of God.
I never knew my Great Grandfather and the only person I ever met with the name Theophilus was a pastor from Burkina Faso who I met when I taught in Ghana in 2013. Three weeks ago today Pastor Theophilus and his wife were killed in a motorcycle accident on their way to church and Pastor Theophilus was also a lover of God.
And so Acts is really book 2 with the Gospel of Luke being book 1.
And if I was to ask you what was important about the book of Acts I would get all kinds of answers.
It is in the book of Acts that we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon the early believers on the day of Pentecost. It is in the book of Acts that we read about the martyrdom of Stephen and James, it is here we read about the persecution of the believers and how because of that persecution many of those believers were forced to leave Jerusalem.
It is in the book of Acts that we read about a man named Saul, and his journey from an obscure reference in a tragedy involving the first Christian martyr to his becoming one if not the most influential voice in Christianity. Oscar Wilde could have been speaking about Saul when he wrote “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” Because with his conversion Saul became Paul and Paul would go on to write the majority of the New Testament and develop and shape the theology that would make Christianity distinct among world religions.
In the Wesley Study Bible we read: “The entire Book of Acts is an expansion and fulfilment of the promise in 1:8 ---- “you shall be witnesses . . . in Jerusalem . . . Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth.”
But when I think of the book of Acts I think of the birth of the church. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek community Church is noted for saying “The local church is the hope of the world.” And I truly believe that.
The church is the instrument that Christ planned on using to change and impact the world. That was apparent when he told Peter in Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. But when Jesus spoke those words there was no church.
If the Gospels are the story of Jesus then Acts is the story of the church and Groucho Marx said “Although it is generally known, I think it's about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.” And the church was born at a very early age.
So what do we learn about the New Testament Church? Because you will hear folks say from time to time, “We ought to be a New Testament Church” or “Our church should be more like the New Testament Church.” I’ve even had a few pastors through the years tell me, “We are a New Testament Church.” I’ve always wanted to ask them, “So has anyone died taking communion lately?” If you didn’t get that you need to read 1 Corinthians 11:30.